Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel

  • Born: March 2, 1904
  • Died: September 24, 1991
  • Location: La Jolla, California

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Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss

Famed author of children's books as Dr. Seuss, dies at 87

Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author and illustrator whose whimsical fantasies written under the pen name Dr. Seuss entertained and instructed millions of children and adults around the world, died in his sleep on Tuesday night at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 87 years old.

The exact cause of death was unclear, said Jerry Harrison, who oversees children's books for Random House, Mr. Geisel's longtime publishers. Mr. Harrison said the author had been suffering from an infection of his jawbone that had become acute in recent months.

"We've lost the finest talent in the history of children's books," Mr. Harrison said in a telephone interview, "and we'll probably never see one like him again."

Mr. Geisel's work delighted children by combining the ridiculous and the logical, generally with a homely moral. "If I start out with the concept of a two-headed animal," he once said, "I must put two hats on his head and two toothbrushes in the bathroom. It's logical insanity."

Mr. Geisel's first book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," appeared in 1937. It was followed by such classics as "Horton Hatches the Egg" in 1940 and "The Cat in the Hat" in 1957.

Over the years, zany animal characters, names and book titles were the Dr. Seuss trademarks. There was "Yertle the Tertle" (1958), "Fox in Socks" (1965), "Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?" (1970) and others too improbable to mention.

But the archetypal Seuss hero, many connoisseurs felt, was Horton, a conscientious pachyderm who was duped by a lazy bird into sitting on her egg. Horton stuck to the job for many weeks, despite dreadful weather and other harassments, saying, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an elephant's faithful 100 percent." His virtue was finally rewarded when the egg hatched and out came a creature with a bird's wings and an elephant's head.

Mr. Geisel won the hearts and minds of children "by the sneaky stratagem of making them laugh," Richard R. Lingeman wrote in a review in The New York Times. He also charmed adults, especially with "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," a 1990 book he wrote for adult readers as well as children, which has been on The New York Times best-seller list for 79 weeks.

Sales of "Horton Hatches the Egg," "The Cat in the Hat" and other children's books by Mr. Geisel totaled well over 200 million copies, Kathleen Fogarty, the director of publicity for Random House Books for Young Readers, said. She said he had written 48 books in his long career, some of them meant for adults as well as children.

In 1984, he won a special Pulitzer citation "for his contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents."

Mr. Geisel -- he pronounced the name GUYS-ell -- was also the founder and a longtime executive of Beginner Books, a publishing concern bought by Random House. Its books for young children, some by Dr. Seuss, have sold more than 50 million copies and are in school libraries in countries around the world. His books have been translated into 20 languages, Ms. Fogarty said.

Mr. Geisel began using his middle name as a pen name for his cartoons because he hoped to use his surname as a novelist one day. But when he got around to doing a grown-up book -- "The Seven Lady Godivas" in 1939 -- the grown-ups did not seem to want to buy his humor, and he went back to writing for children, becoming famous and wealthy.

"I'd rather write for kids," he later explained. "They're more appreciative; adults are obsolete children, and the hell with them."

When Mr. Geisel was interested or amused, which was very often, his eyes would light up with boyish warmth. With his lank hair, beaky nose and neat bow ties, he looked rather like the college professor he had originally set out to be. Though he never earned a doctorate, his alma mater, Dartmouth College, gave him an honorary one.

The world of Mr. Geisel's imagination was nourished by his childhood visits to the zoo in Springfield, Mass. He was born in Springfield on March 2, 1904, the son of Theodor R. Geisel, the Superintendent of Parks, and Henrietta Seuss Geisel.

Superintendent Geisel, the son of an emigre German cavalry officer who founded a brewery in Springfield, expanded the zoo and liked to show it off to his son.

"I used to hang around there a lot," Mr. Geisel recalled in an interview. "They'd let me in the cage with the small lions and the small tigers, and I got chewed up every once in a while."

After graduating from high school, he majored in English at Dartmouth, where he contributed cartoons to the campus humor magazine, Jack-O'-Lantern, and became its editor. He graduated with a B.A. in 1925. Then followed a year of graduate work in English literature at Lincoln College of Oxford University, after which he spent a year traveling in Europe.

In 1927, Mr. Geisel married Helen Marion Palmer of Orange, N.J., a teacher he had met when they were studying at Oxford. It was she who persuaded him to give up thoughts of teaching and make drawing a career.

"Ted's notebooks were always filled with these fabulous animals," she later recalled. "So I set to work diverting him; here was a man who could draw such pictures; he should be earning a living doing that."

In addition to serving as her husband's business manager and helping edit his books, she wrote children's books under her maiden name.

Mr. Geisel began contributing humorous material to Vanity Fair, Liberty, Judge and other magazines. But when he first became famous, it was for drawing the "Quick Henry, the Flit!" insecticide advertisements.

Mr. Geisel also wrote for the movies. His documentary films "Hitler Lives" and "Design for Death" won Academy Awards in 1946 and 1947, and his cartoon short "Gerald McBoing Boing" won an Oscar in 1951. He also designed and produced cartoons for television, including the Peabody Award-winning "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" and "Horton Hears a Who!"

Among his later books were some on serious topics. In "The Butter Battle Book" (1984), he introduced young readers to the dangers of the nuclear arms race. In 1986, in "You're Only Old Once!," he addressed the problems of old age in a book for grown-ups. Edward Sorel, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said the book was illustrated with Mr. Geisel's "characteristic verve and imagination." But, he added, "there's something amiss in the blithe assumption that the sort of rhymes which delight a 4-year-old (or an adult reading to a 4-year-old) will still entertain when read alone through bifocals."

Admirers of Mr. Geisel said the universality of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," which addresses the difficulties of finding one's way through life, accounted for its success last year. The book quickly became a popular graduation present, and more than a million copies are said to have been sold.

After writing the book, Mr. Geisel worked on the screenplay for a planned feature-movie version. And this July, "Six by Seuss," a one-volume collection of six of his earlier books, was published.

Helen Palmer Geisel died in 1967. She and Mr. Geisel had no children. In 1968, Mr. Geisel married Audrey Stone Dimond, who survives him.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Thanks Ted, for the autograph and encouragement to a five year old boy on a beachfront pier. 57 years ago, I still remember it. "Keep Reading". Mike

Posted by michael calkins - Houston, TX - Friend   April 11, 2021

Candle

Its hard to see this happen. I love you. I hope they have green eggs and ham in heaven.

Posted by Emma Holtsclaw - Monrovia, IN - Acquaintance   October 28, 2020

To Dr. Seus' family: I'm so sorry for your loss, please read 1 Corinthians 15:26.

Posted by D E    September 28, 2017

Posted by ludipian - cincinnati, OH - fellowCREATIVE   January 02, 2016

(duh!)- R f L >

Posted by louis w specker - cincinnati, OH - life fan/artist   December 28, 2015

Thank you for writing books that will live on forever...

Posted by Lauren Terrill - Springfield, MA - Friend from College   March 18, 2014

I Read Your Books When I Was Growing Up And i still Have Them today and they still sale Them Today and Farovitive books were Green Eggs @ Ham And Cat in the Hat

Love Linda kim @ Cindy

Posted by Cindy Duncan    September 30, 2011

i Read Your Books Growing Up and i still Have Them Today My Farovitive Book Was Green Eggs And Ham And Cat In The Hat

Love Linda Kim @ Cindy Duncan

Posted by Cindy Duncan    September 30, 2011

Thank you Ted, for enriching all of us.

Posted by Dave Reamy - Yucca Valley, CA   May 27, 2008

I like your book green eggs and ham because my name is in it. I am eight years old and I am dressing up like sam I am for school tomorrow to celebrate your birthday. I am sorry to hear how you may have died. I wish the doctor could have fixed it. Thank you ! All my smiles tomorrow are because of what you did to make all of your books for kids.
Love Sam thats who I am

Posted by sammi castillo    May 27, 2008

Dr and Mrs Seuss...thanks for the many wonderful memories. As a teacher, I see first hand the joy your books and movies from those books bring to children.

Heaven is a richer place...if there's a library I'm sure it's filled with your books..

Nancy Nelson, Missouri

Posted by Nancy Nelson - Saint Joseph, MO   March 02, 2007

THANK you DR SEUSS FOR THE GREAT Books will always treasure them the enjoyment they brought me as a child
GOD BLESS BETTY SMITH

Posted by BETTY SMITH - Carmi, IL   March 01, 2007

dear dr seuss, thanks so much for all of your wonderfully fun& truly magical fantasy journey's they took my all my grandchildren on as they many thousands other children every child needs that to survive.thanks so much

Posted by colleen kowitz - Woodstock, GA   March 01, 2007

Always will remember the Grinch, and second best the Cat in the Hat. Now my grandchildren enjoy them. He left us all a wonderful legacy in his books. He will be sorely missed.
Mary M.

Posted by Mary McKenna - Blue Bell, PA   February 28, 2007

My Favorite Dr. Seuss Book of all, was the one I 1st learned to read called "Go Dog Go" . Through the entire book, and on each page, this female dog tries to get a male dogs approval of her hat. Each time she is discouraged with a "No; I do not like your hat", and each dog bids farewell saying, "Good Bye" "Good Bye", until the last page when the female dog arrives with a hat that explodes with all types of adornments and asks the male dog one more time. "Do you like my hat?" the male dog responds saying, "Yes, I like your hat" each then bid farewell as usual, "Good Bye" , "Good Bye".

Posted by Marisa Alspach - Tampa, FL   February 28, 2007

My absolute favorite is Green Eggs and Ham ,always made me hungry

Posted by Virginia Vlahovic - Arlington, TX   February 28, 2007

It's said that he had no children, in fact he had millions.

Posted by Philip Newsome - Hartford, AL   February 28, 2007

My most treasured memories are of reading Dr. Seuse books with my children and now my step-children. Hopefully in the future some grand-children as well. Thank You for the memories!

Posted by Cherie Thomas-Wood - Chattanooga, TN   February 28, 2007


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Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss
Theodor Geisel, better known as children's author Dr. Seuss
Theodor Geisel shows off some puppets based on his creations
Ted Geisel in 1957
Dr. Seuss draws The Grinch, 1957
A 1941 political cartoon, "America First," by Theodor Geisel

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The Cat in the Hat looks over the shoulder of his creator
Dr. Seuss at the drawing board
A Dr. Seuss political cartoon featuring Charles Lindbergh
Theodor Geisel hard at work in his studio
Dr. Seuss with some of his illustrations
Dr. Seuss colors a illustration featuring The Grinch

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Geisel with some of his lesser-known works
Dr. Seuss in his office
Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel
The widow of Dr. Seuss, Audrey Geisel
The Cat in the Hat admires himself and his creator
The U.S. Postal Service honors Dr. Seuss with his own stamp

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Theodor Geisel's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Community Photos

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